Catching your Breath – Train your Diaphragm

It is pretty safe to say that breathing is important.  Respiration is considered one of the requirements for life after all.  In terms of day to day life, our bodies are generally effective at filling our lungs with all that oxygen and pushing out that carbon dioxide so we can focus on other things.  When we’re doing something like exercising, breathing with intent becomes more vital.  With running, having good breathing habits is necessary.

Whether a runner’s goal is performance or just getting some exercise and enjoying the views, practicing good breathing patterns can be helpful for improving performance and even prevent injuries.

Being able to breathe properly while running requires control of the diaphragm (pictured below).  The diaphragm is the most important muscle for breathing, and for various reasons, people generally don’t have good control over their diaphragm.  Look down at your torso and watch what moves as you breathe in.  Did your chest and shoulders rise, did your stomach stick out, or was it a combination?  If you didn’t see your stomach moving with your breathe, you’re not using your diaphragm properly.


Diaphragmatic breathing is a simple way to get an edge with running and may even make running more enjoyable.  Doing so requires a little time, but once you have it down, it tends to stick with you.

Here are a couple of ways to train your diaphragm:

  • Breathe through your nose – Doing so will help fill up your lungs fully so you can dump that built up carbon dioxide.   Breathing through your nose also helps promote use of the diaphragm as well.
  • Lay down – Lying on your back basically takes gravity out of the equation so you can try to actively use your diaphragm.  Click here for some instruction on how to use your diaphragm, and then see if you can do that in sitting, standing, or while running.
  • Find a breathing pattern with your stepping – Your breathing should have some relation to your cadence.  That is, for every 10 steps you take while running, you should have the same number of breaths for those 10 steps in mile 1 as you have in mile 6.

Breathing seems like a pretty simple thing, but as with just about everything in the body, it can be pretty complex. Those 3 cues should help to simplify diaphragmatic breathing and make running a little more enjoyable.

Got questions?  Feel limited in what you’re able to do?  The staff at Limitless Physical Therapy in Eugene, OR can show you how to be limitless. Contact us to connect with on of our PTs. Or follow us on Facebook.

***The above information, including text, images, and all other materials, is provided for educational purposes only, and not as a replacement or supplement to professional medical advice.  Please contact a certified healthcare professional or your primary physician for any personal concerns.

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